My parents were extraordinary. They still are.
They were ahead of their time in so many ways.
Sure, we sat—or stood—anywhere in the car we wanted, but whatever, they got so many things right. They got them right without the luxury or convenience of the internet and a million how-tos at their fingertips.
1. My mom didn’t need an army of mommy bloggers to figure it out.
My mom stayed at home with all three of us—before going back to get her college degree and embark on a 25-year teaching career—without blogging about it or reading blogs about it. GASP! How did she make it through the school drop-off line or traverse the competitive world of child-rearing without the virtual company of 8 trillion mommy bloggers by her side? How did any of our milestones mean anything when they couldn’t be shared on Instagram or posted on Facebook? We’ll never know. But she did it like a B.O.S.S.
2. They believed in lessons.
We got dropped off at the skating rink on weekend nights and picked up at midnight. One time when I was around 10 or 11, I had my brand new Nike kicks stolen from my locker. They were gone, period. End of story. Yes, my mom felt bad for me, but again they were gone. It sucked, but to my parents, the theft didn’t equate to a replacement pair, it equated to me learning to be more vigilant about prized possessions. You better believe I started double-checking the padlock after that.
3. My mom ROCKED nightly home-cooked meals—for well over a decade.
We also ate dinner at home every night. Yes, up until high school, the five of us ate my mom’s home-cooked meals, around the kitchen table, every night. I can’t imagine how she pulled it off—that many meals, that many years—but she did. I’m sure one thing that made it possible was that she (logically) cooked one meal, and we ate it. Up until my freshman year, I have only a few memories of dinner anywhere but our kitchen table. I also have next-to-no memories of bumming out over the meal put in front of me.
Well, there was that one night when my dad was exceptionally cranky and put down the edict that he was “the father of this family” and he’d “by-damn get the piece of fried chicken” he wanted. I believe it was a thigh, which now makes me wonder what the fuss was about. Who was putting up a fight over a thigh? It was super fine by me. We also always had a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s bread on the table—a far stretch from the artisan breads of today, but I loved it. My favorite thing (after watching my dad do this) was capping off supper with a scoop of mashed potatoes in a single folded up slice of bread—a mashed potato sandwich dessert if you will. Heaven!
Now, at restaurants, when the waiter says, “Did you save room for dessert? Maybe some flan or a sopapilla or cheesecake?” I’m just thinking, “Please say mashed potato sandwich, please say mashed potato sandwich.” I’m still waiting on that offering.
Side Note: My dad and I used to love to eat gross things, too. Pickled pigs feet, sardines in the can—we relished every moment of grossing out those around us. We still do.
Another Side Note That Deserves Its Own Post: My mom is the world’s best cook. This is not up for discussion. I’d pick one of her home-cooked meals over any food, any where. I got my love of cooking from her, and I consider it one of the greatest gifts.
4. They took responsibility for teaching us about God.
We didn’t really grow up in church, we sorta just had church at home. As kids of praying, steadfast believing parents, we learned all the important things that we still hold dear today.
But one awful night (I don’t remember what led to this), my parents told me—what I considered at the time—a huge lie. They said I should always put God before them, and … wait for the shocking news … love God more than I loved them. I felt like someone slapped me across my precious face. I’d never been so upset with them.
As a little kid whose life still revolved around her parents, this made ZERO sense to me, and I wanted NO PART of it—not because I didn’t love God (I so did), but because my parents were my world. I devised a plan to disobey them, because it was simply something I could. not. would. not. do. I knew in my heart they’d gotten it all wrong. I almost felt bad for their misinterpretation of God’s will.
ALMOST—I was too disappointed in their careless mandate to empathize with them.
I knew that the God I trusted would never want to me to love Him more than my parents, so I decided I’d go along with them outwardly, nodding like it made perfect sense, but continue loving them #1 in my heart.
Fortunately, nothing bad came from my disobedience, and no one ever tested me. In my head, my defiance looked like this: choosing teams for dodge ball and picking my mom and dad over God—and then immediately getting struck in the head with lightning and my gravestone reading, “You picked the wrong rule to break.”
Side Note: I, of course, understand all of this now—but as a very little kid, I was appalled by my blasphemous, lying parents. I even remember where we were standing when they told me the lies. I also remember throwing myself face down on my pillow to cry it out—vowing in my heart I’d never love anyone more than my parents. This was, of course, before I laid eyes on Ricky Schroder.
I’d now like to lighten the mood by telling you that on our summer vacations, they’d make us virgin Tom Collins.
5. We had wonderful traditions.
Speaking of vacations (and life in general), my mom was, and still is, the best of the best at creating traditions for our family. Her fingerprint is on everything that is real and wonderful about my family.
One of my favorite traditions growing up was our summer vacation down to Corpus Christi. The five of us would road trip (although when I was little, that didn’t have a name—it was just how you traveled) to Corpus. We’d leave in the wee hours of the morning and the kiddos would sleep in the car—all over the car. Floorboard, back window, across our parents laps. They probably would’ve let us sleep in the trunk if we’d asked. I doubt it, but I have nothing to base that doubt on.
Here was where the swoon came in. We’d start stirring in the late morning and wake up so happy when we saw we were well on our way—and then the realization that we were hungry would kick in, and we’d all start looking for a river bank or cool area for our lunch spot. My mom would break out the cooler of cold fried chicken, cheese, bread, pickles and bottled Coke. Nothing has EVER tasted so good in my life.
Then we’d crawl back into the car and play with our handheld games.
Side Note: I’m not gonna get on a soapbox about everything today’s kids “need” to “survive” a road trip—or the monsters we’re creating—I’m just going to say that I’m thankful beyond thankful that I grew up when I did, and learned how to entertain myself and just be happily alone in my thoughts.
We’d drive and drive, listening to The Beatles. We had a stack of 8-tracks in heavy rotation and it was pure bliss. No, I never did understand some of their lyrics (why is he a walrus? why is Lucy in the sky? Why’d Joe Joe think he was a woman?) but I never once tired of the music we grew up with.
Everything about our summer vacations to Corpus has stayed with me. The music, the stops for beef jerky and pickles, feeding the seagulls, looking for “butterfly” seashells to present to my mom as my promise of everlasting love.
6. My dad guided us early and swiftly.
Me: See ya later, alligator!
Daddy: See ya later, alligator.
Me: After a while, crocodile!
Daddy: After a while crocodile.
Me: Soon, raccoon!
Daddy: No, Ma’am. I don’t want you saying that.
Daddy: Because it could be construed as racist slang and I won’t have you saying it. Alligators and crocodiles are plenty enough.
And that was that. I didn’t fully understand until he explained it further; but I knew not to ever say it again and knew why.
7. Their worth wasn’t tied to my athletic performance.
From the moment I set my eyes on the game of basketball, I was hooked. And one second after that realization, my parents found a way for it to be part of my life. They got me an outdoor hoop and they made arrangements for us to go play at a nearby community college gym.
I played all the time—every day and night, I shot baskets and played. That was all wonderful, but when they were truly ahead of their time was when I was on real teams. Never once, EVER, in a zillion games, did they ever show anger or disappointment in me. They were not those parents. This wasn’t as surprising coming from my mom—I think moms are naturally nurturing—but it was definitely more uncommon for dads to show nothing but support. And my dad was not a sugar-coating kind of guy. He was a “call it what it is” man. Yet, there he was, game after game with his arm around me—and a proud look on his face.
I have memory after memory of nothing but love and comfort after games, while nearby, I could hear snippets from disgusted, disappointed, furious parents railing on their kid. Don’t get me wrong, mine didn’t celebrate poor performances by any stretch—they just opted (way ahead of their time) to not take that route with me. Maybe it was because they knew I was extremely hard on myself and needed ZERO assistance in that department—I don’t know—but not ONCE? Not one chewing out session? Pretty impressive. I do know their worth wasn’t tied to my performance or success like seems to be the case so often these days … and that right there also puts them well ahead of their time.
No one but me can really know what their support did for me, or how it molded me—but it was a true and lasting gift. I can only imagine the damaging effect the opposite type of behavior has on kids. I’m glad I don’t know this firsthand.
8. They couldn’t care less about attachment parenting.
My parents gave us the perfect amount of “attachment parenting” vs. “cry-it-out.” In fact, one time I got my whole foot stuck in my bike spokes and my dad not only did NOT comfort me, but he was actually pretty mad about whatever carelessness led to my ankle being wrapped up in my wheel.
We consistently took off on our bikes, never to return until dusk—riding on hills and through terrain not cleared for children on Huffy bikes.
I have memories of taking off on foot or on the back of a bike of neighborhood friends and not seeing my parents for hours on end. Maybe whole days would pass—who knows?! I’m sure that’s wrong, but maybe my dad was OK with some suspect overnights if it meant peacefully getting the piece of chicken he wanted after a hard day at work?
9. They accepted life and its (occasional) unfair outcomes with grace.
In my preteen years, I used to compete in these “Hoop Shoot” contests. We’d basically shoot 25 free throws, within age brackets, and the winner would move on to sectionals, regionals and state. I won a lot of them and collected lots of cool trophies. People made a big deal about it because I was quite a little nugget and shot a men’s basketball (not the women’s size they have today) … and I was one of very few who actually shot it correctly, and not a granny shot.
Side Note: I was wholly unamused by the kids shooting granny shots. I cringed for them and wanted to point out how utterly embarrassing it was to be a nine-year old, still acting like a toddler. Come on—shoot the dang ball or go home and play with Barbie and Ken.
Anyway, one year I won the round that would take me to the big regional shootout—but found out a short while later, that I’d been placed in the wrong age bracket. I was disqualified. Nothing could be done. There were no do-overs or shuffling of winners.
While my parents and I were incredulous as we discussed the situation—and as it sunk in that it was just over for the year—no one threw a fit. I felt extremely disappointed, but nothing beyond that crossed my mind. My parents didn’t come unglued or “demand” anything of the sponsor. We all just kind of accepted the suckage of the situation.
They didn’t take me to Disneyland, in place of State, to soothe my disappointment. I might have gotten a Slurpee, but that was about it. What did happen was I kept practicing and I made it to State the following year. They even flew my whole family to the shootout in Austin.
10. They were the parents.
When we were growing up, directives like, “clean up your room,” “be home by dusk,” “put on your shoes” weren’t suggestions. They were orders that we obeyed, and when we didn’t, there were consequences. When we refused to do as we were told, there wasn’t some absurd discussion about it, like, “Why didn’t you mind me? Annnnnnna, didn’t I tell you to get dressed? Why didn’t you get dressed? Why are you disobeying me? Sigh, okay, go play.”
Oh. Hell. No. We didn’t engage in the bargaining and negotiating that’s so prevalent today. There was a very distinct line between the parents and kids—not the excruciatingly blurred lines of today. THANK GOODNESS.
And yes, we were spanked. With a hand, with a belt, with a ping-pong paddle and quite embarrassingly, with a flip-flop outside of Dairy Queen … for my “smart alec mouth.” So here’s the thing, we weren’t perfect kids. We absolutely disobeyed—but there were consequences for it.
If I got a lick at school, I got a lick at home. I didn’t get my mom rushing up to the school to question why I got in trouble for what I did—I just got in double trouble at home. This was a known and understood rule among pretty much all the kids we were in school with. And the truth is, I only got one lick during my school years, and it was for something quite benign … I ran from the back of the classroom to my seat in the front. But guess what? I got a lick and then got spanked at home.
And I didn’t run in class again.
True story—with each passing day, I’m more and more blown away by the job my parents did raising us. I read so many articles and blog posts about parenting and I just marvel at the fact that they did it without much help at all. I love that fact that they were ahead of their time in so many ways—and I hope, hope, hope we were fun kids to raise. I know I was pretty easy, because, as the third child, I put myself down for naps and changed my own diapers—but that’s a story for another day.